Business, Goals Edition LISTS OF GOALS, LIKE CRASH DIETS, DON’T WORK.
By: Glen Carlson • 4 years ago •
How to embed new habits, optimise performance and re-wire your brain for profit and fun.
LISTS OF GOALS, LIKE CRASH DIETS, DON’T WORK.
The reason isn’t because you weren’t inspired when you wrote them, or that the achievement of those goals wouldn’t in fact make your life better. They would definitely make your life better. Way better.
Goals don’t work for two main reasons:
1: Goals have little to do with the activity required to achieve them.
The part of you that wants to lose 10kg doesn’t necessarily want to give up chocolate cake. Nor does it want to sweat, stretch or lift heavy things on a regular basis.
It’s a given that if you want to succeed, you’ve got to do the work. The problem with work is…
2: We don’t like work.
Everything is rosy for a few days after setting big goals.
Filling our fridge with organic fruits and vegetables, hiring a developer to build our soon-to- be famous blog or website and, of course, the often expensive thrill of new exercise gear… We’ve all been there.
But what about when the excitement wears off and you’re up against having to actually having to eat mungbeans or get out and do some real work?
The part of your brain that got you excited about your goals is distinctly separate from the part of your brain that keeps you excited about the work required to achieve them.
If you don’t enjoy the work required to achieve a goal, it’s predictable that you’re going to unconsciously run some kind of interference on yourself, dramatically reducing the chances of getting it.
This doesn’t mean you’re lazy. You just don’t like doing things that feel like a chore.
You want to do things that you’re naturally drawn to, that you’re inspired and excited by. I get it. Me too.
THE CASE AGAINST WILLPOWER:
If you’re naturally inspired to do something, self-discipline and willpower should be unnecessary.
It’s annoyingly easy for the fitness lover to have a goal of having a six pack for summer. It doesn’t seem fair. Their innate enjoyment of exercise makes achieving that goal a no-brainer. Success in this area of their life is a natural extension of who they are.
If, on the other hand, you abhor exercise, then the odds of you seeing your abs this summer are, well, slim.
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” — Steve Jobs
The problem is, many of us have resigned ourselves to the fallacious idea that if we don’t already enjoy doing something, then our fate is sealed and we never will.
As it turns out, neuroscience has confirmed that our brains are not in fact physiologically static as once thought and are in fact quite malleable. Termed ’neuroplasticity’, your brain is in fact able to re-organise itself by forming new neural connections at will.
The operative words just there being at will.
It turns out, it’s possible to manually re-organise the physical structure of your brain so that any activity you choose can be transformed from decidedly unpleasant into what’s referred to (mainly by geeks) as autotelic.
The word autotelic comes from the Greek word autotelēs that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in his seminal book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience defines like this:“An autotelic activity is one we do for its own sake because to experience it, is the main goal. Applied to personality, autotelic denotes an individual who generally does things for their own sake, rather than in order to achieve some later external goal”
In other words, an autotelic is not motivated by the destination; instead they derive meaning and purpose from the journey.
A surfer doesn’t need a goal to motivate them to get up for a pre-dawn wave.
A writer needs nothing more than their enjoyment of writing to write.
A neat person doesn’t require the imminent arrival of guests to get around to cleaning the house.
An autotelic’s actions arise from the simple desire and enjoyment of the action itself.
But what if you’re autotelic at watching TV, eating chips and spending more than you earn?
You can’t change what you enjoy. Right? You are who you are, right?
Your brain’s neuroplasticity implies quite the opposite.
Like updating the firmware on your computer, neuroplasticity and cortical re-mapping proves that we can consciously change the way our brain responds to certain stimuli.
In other words, you can literally rewire your brain to enjoy, well, anything you want.
Step 1. Write a stated specific measurable goal, like, “I want to lose 10kg”.
Step 2. Write a list of 5 of the activities required to achieve that goal. Just one may be “sweating for 45 minutes every day”. Another may be “eating 500g of vegetables per day” etc.
Step 3. For each of your 5 activities, write a list of 200 ways in which “sweating for 45 minutes every day” is going to make you happy in the short term.
The key to step 3 is discovering the short term payoff. Not the payoff of actually having lost the 10kg, that’s too far in the future to get the brain releasing loads of pleasure drugs on a daily basis. To really change behaviour, to turn something you avoid and procrastinate over into something you really enjoy, you need to show your subconscious that there is an instant payoff.
If you can show your brain that there is enough short-term upside to the activity that will lead to you achieving your wildest dreams, your brain will connect the dots and you will naturally become the person that achieves their goals effortlessly.
Sounds easy right? It’s not. Try it. You will get to about 20-50 reasons why sweating will make you happy in the short term, then you will hit a wall. Your mind will go blank. It will struggle to access any more reasons.
If you really push yourself to think of 200 reasons, that’s where the magic happens. Pushing through the mental blocks will literally unlock the hidden pleasure centres in your brain and encourage them making the actions that will naturally lead to the goal something you genuinely enjoy.
Doing that 5 more times really embeds the hack into your neurology.
For me, life isn’t about setting goals. It’s about becoming the kind of person who ‘naturally’ achieves the results that inspire and excite me.
How would your life be different if you developed a love of exercising, selling, investing, writing, maintaining your social media or visiting your in-laws?
Pretty different right?
While you can’t change the past, your future is now entirely up for grabs. You now have the technology to rewire your brain for profit and fun.
Be brave, have fun, and make a Dent in the universe.________________________________________________________________________
Glen Carlson is an entrepreneur and co-founder of the internationally acclaimed Key Person of Influence program with offices in the UK, the USA, Singapore and Australia. He is an advisor to numerous brands, charities and best-selling authors.
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